Wilfred Systermans (listed as Wilfred Systermans in Canadian Catholic Church Directories and Ontario Catholic Directory)
Wilfred Systerman (in media)
German-born member of the Pallottins (also Pallottines – also known as the Society of the Catholic Apostolate ). The order is designated by initials “s.a.c.” Ordained 1958. Came to Canada to minister to German-speaking Catholics at St. Mary Roman Catholic Church in Waterloo, Ontario. Served in the Diocese of Hamilton, Ontario and the Archdiocese of Edmonton. Sex abuse allegations related to his time in Hamilton Diocese. Allegations reported to police in 1990 – Father Systermans fled the country. Warrant issued for his arrest and was listed on Interpol. Systermans died in 1996: he was never apprehended.
22 August 2011: Michael Zenker Statement of Claim re allegations of sex abuse by Father Wilfred Systermans (Systermann) (between Michael Zenker and The Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of the Diocese of Hamilton in Ontario, the Delegature West of the Province of the Sacred Heart of the Society of Catholic Apostolate and The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province of the Society of Catholic Apostolate)
1985-1986: Provincial Delegate for the Pallottins – Father Joseph Dephoff (Calgary, Alberta)
Bishops of the Hamilton Diocese from time Father Systermans arrived: Paul Francis Reding (14 September 1973 – 08 December 1983); Anthony Frederick Tonnos (02 May 1984 – 24 September 2010) ; David Douglas Crosby, O.M.I. (24 Septembrer 2010 – – )
Archbishop of Edmonton while Father Systerman served in the Edmonton Archdiocese: Joseph Neil MacNeil (02 July 1973 – – 07 Jun2 1999)
21 March 2017: Pedophile priests: The escape
The following information is drawn from Canadian Catholic Church Directories (CCCD) the 1980 Ontario Catholic Directory (OCD) and media (M)
August 2011: lawsuit filed alleging abuse of Michael Zenker which began when he was 11-years-old and continued until he was 14. (M)
1996: died (M)
1991: not listed in CCCD
1990: abuse reported to police (M) – after the investigation began Systermans was transferred back to his order’s German headquarters in Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany. According to media reports, police notified Interpol and issued a Canada-wide warrant in case Systermans ever returned to Canada (M)
It seems that Systermans may have been serving in the Archdiocese of Edmonton Alberta when he fled the country to elude justice?
1985: Pastor, St. Boniface Roman Catholic Church, Edmonton, Alberta (CD)
1979-1985: Pastor at St Mary’s (Our Lady of Seven Sorrows) Roman Catholic Church, Kitchener, Ontario (Father Systermans at St Marys) (Living in residence at st. Agnes in Waterloo)
allegations of abuse date to 1979 to 1983 at the office and rectory of St. Agnes, a Grand Bend cottage, and another Hamilton area church
1980: in residence at St. Agnes, Waterloo, Ontario (Pastor Father T. H. Herhaz SAC) (OCD)
1973-74: not listed in directory (CCCD)
Pastor alleges sex abuse, sues Roman Catholic organizations for $3M
TheRecord.com (Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario)
28 July 2012
WATERLOO — A local pastor is suing several Roman Catholic Church organizations for allegedly failing to protect him from being sexually abused by a priest in Waterloo more than three decades ago.
Michael Zenker says he was 11 years old when a priest at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Waterloo began abusing him. It lasted three years, he says.
The lawsuit’s statement of claim filed in a court in Hamilton, in August 2011, contains allegations that have not been proved in court.
According to the statement of claim Father Wilfrid Systerman, who is now dead, forced the boy into sexual acts including fondling, masturbation and oral sex.
Zenker, 43, who now lives in Elmira, says he met Systerman as a Record newspaper carrier delivering the paper to the St. Agnes church office.
The priest was sent from Germany to be a minister to German-speaking Catholics at St. Mary Catholic church in Kitchener. He lived at the manse attached to St. Agnes.
Systerman often gave Zenker tips when he knocked on the office door to collect the money owed for the paper, Zenker said in an interview. The priest brought him into his office and invited him to sit on his lap.
“His hands started to wander,” Zenker said. “It happened all the time. He had his hands down my pants almost every time I went to see him.”
Zenker reported the alleged abuse to Waterloo regional police in 1990. After police began an investigation, Systerman was transferred to Germany where he died in 1996.
“We were unable to conclude the investigation because the priest was transferred to Germany,” said Sgt. Sig Peters. “He left the country before we could interview him.”
Police notified Interpol and issued a Canada-wide warrant in case Systerman ever returned to Canada.
Peters said Zenker’s story was “very believable — very authentic. At the time, his concern was there might be other kids. We tried very hard to come up with other young fellows,” Peters said.
Zenker thought the case was closed. But he decided to go to a lawyer 2 1/2 years ago after reading an article about the abuse of boys by Catholic priests.
“I started reading stories of coverup from the Catholic church. Something in me woke up,” said Zenker, who went on to become pastor of Hope Fellowship, a non-denominational congregation in Waterloo.
“My life has been affected by this. We’re suing the church for negligence, for not dealing with this. They knew what happened and protected him and did nothing.”
Zenker launched a $3-million lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton, the Catholic religious society to which the priest belonged (known as the Pallottines), and the organization that took over that group.
The Hamilton Diocese denies the allegations. In its statement of defence, the diocese says Systerman was an ordained Pallottine priest under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Pallottines, an independent religious institute.
The Diocese said it had jurisdiction only over diocesan priests of the Diocese of Hamilton.
In its statement of defence, the Pallottines say they did not know about any improper conduct by the priest. They learned of the allegations only in 2010 through Zenker’s lawyer.
The society’s officials say Zenker is not legally entitled to take action so long after the alleged abuse.
“The plaintiff’s unreasonable and inexcusable delay in pursuing this action in a timely way has resulted in severe prejudice to the Pallottines and its ability to properly defend this action,” their statement of defence says.
The lawsuit says the Diocese and the Pallottines should be punished for helping Systerman leave Canada “in the face of rumours, allegations and/or suspicions of Systermmans’ (sic) sexual misconduct…’’ and for failing to co-operate with the police investigation of Zenker’s allegations.
The Diocese and the Pallottines indirectly helped the priest avoid justice in Canada, the lawsuit states.
“He was magically returned to Germany,” said Zenker’s lawyer, Rob Talach. “I suspect … his religious order decided that was the best way to get him out of Dodge.”
He calls it an international obstruction of justice.
“They’ll have to justify why he was magically transferred as soon as police started snooping around,” he said.
Talach said courts usually allow lawsuits related to historical sexual abuse to proceed. It’s common for many victims not to come forward until their 40s or 50s, he said.
“People will avoid it, bury it, try not to deal with it. In mid-life they decide to confront it. In Canada, there’s no statute of limitations to charge someone or sue someone” in these kinds of cases, he added.
Zenker recalls Systerman as an “overweight senior man” who was kind and gentle.
He was always smiling, like a “happy Friar Tuck,” he said.
Like Systerman, Zenker’s background is German.
Zenker’s parents trusted someone “from the homeland,” he said.
A religious child who grew up in the German Baptist Church, Zenker liked the priest because he talked about God.
“I loved God,” he said. “To me, the God thing was really important. I was an innocent hungry kid wanting to know more.
“He was an authority. He was teaching me about God.”
Zenker attended Catholic education classes. He went on an overnight trip to Hamilton where classes were being held.
There, he recalls a boy named Jamie telling him, ‘Keep your doors locked.’
“Then it started to dawn on me,” Zenker said. “I quit the paper route.”
Systerman also took him to a cottage in Grand Bend for a beach vacation.
Zenker thought the sexual abuse hadn’t affected him. But looking back, he was kicked out of three Kitchener high schools and he made poor financial decisions. He says he was suicidal and his marriage was affected.
Talach says the Diocese can’t wash its hands of the priest simply because he was ordained by the religious society.
“He would have been (among) a handful of priests in the parish that’s run by the Diocese. He’s on loan to the Diocese of Hamilton,” Talach said.
But the Diocese said it did not supervise the priest who was not employed by the Diocese.
The Diocese is cross-suing the Pallottines organization, called The Society of Catholic Apostolate — Western Canadian Delegate.
The Diocese says that if Zenker did suffer any damages, they were caused by the negligence of the Pallottines who should pay any damages that may be ordered.
Responsibility for the society was transferred in 2009 to a similar Catholic organization, with headquarters in India, called The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province of the Society of Catholic Apostolate.
Giovanna Asaro, the lawyer for the Diocese, declined to comment since the matter is in litigation.